More junta maneuvering

8 03 2017

Several reports today show the slithering maneuverings by the junta promise more junta, more censorship and more corruption.

The first story follows from another a couple of days ago on more “delays” to the “election” schedule. Now the chief constitution launderer Meechai Ruchupan has apparently agreed that it may be late 2018 before there’s an “election.” Our view is that the military dictatorship intends to stay put for as long as possible and then ensure that it continues as an “elected” government. While even well laid plans get skittled, it looks like Thailand is under the military boot for a lot longer.

The second story is about the junta shutting down the BBC. It seems the “BBC World Service has stopped broadcasting from one of its major global transmission stations situated in Thailand … after talks broke down with a junta riled by its uncensored coverage.”

The BBC’s transmitter in Thailand and is the “network’s main shortwave broadcast station for Asia.” It is clear that the 20-year lease has not been renewed because the junta wants BBC and BBC Thai to be censored. The junta is a bunch of knuckle draggers who want to control Thailands past and present. It will only get worse as the junta has to cover-up its own corruption and clean the palace’s dirty laundry.

The third story, totally predictable, is of the continuing failure to do anything serious about the Rolls Royce corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) “will decide on Thursday whether to set up a subcommittee to investigate allegations of bribery involving UK-based jet-engine maker Rolls-Royce and some Thai companies.” How wonderful! No other progress…. We assume that’s the way the junta prefers it.





Updated: Chitpong sentenced on lese majeste

4 03 2017

Embedded in a story on the now officially disgraced palace flunkey Jumpol Manmai, his wife and others, was a brief comment on the quick end to a lese majeste case also associated with the palace and the grumpy and vindictive King Vajiralongkorn.

Just a few days ago, we posted that Air Vice Marshal Chitpong Thongkum, who served with the King’s bodyguard, had been sacked for alleged misconduct claimed to be damaging to the royal household.

chitpongChitpong was stripped of his military ranks and eight royal decorations for “offenses” that were said to include stealing royal property, disclosing the king’s personal health records and failing to report to duty. It was not entirely clear what he had done to send the king into a rage.

At the time, we said we guessed that means a lese majeste charge would follow.

They did. And in record time, Chitpong has been in court and sentenced to “five years and six months for lese majeste and four other charges including theft at a state office and violations of the Cosmetics Act. He was also fined Bt25,000.”

We guess this was a secret trial. [Update: it was in a military court.]

As is usually the case in all lese majeste cases and not just those involving kingly bile, Chitpong’s sentence was “reduced by half as Chitpong admitted all the charges before the court.” We guess he had no choice or he might have faced death in custody. His lese majeste sentence of five years was halved.

There is little information available on the case. Palace involvement, secret trials, forced guilty pleas and fear mean that those close to the king who get the boot are considered dangerous to report on and it is accepted that the king’s decisions, no matter how nasty can’t be adequately reported.

Update: A couple of wire stories on the case are now available. They are:

AFP, 4 March 2017: “Thai king’s former aide jailed for royal defamation

Reuters, 3 March 2017: “Thailand jails former palace aide for royal defamation

Both make the point that this case is one in a growing list of persons in the prince-now-king’s household who have been purged since late 2014.





Palace punishment

4 03 2017

PPT has posted on the travails of former top cop and top aide to King Vajiralongkorn, Police General Jumpol Manmai.

jumpol-shavedAs has been something of a pattern when the prince-cum-king tires of people or he believes they have done him down in some way, Jumpol was first rumored to be in trouble, then legal cases were mentioned, followed by his disappearance. When he reappeared, like others, his head was shaved and he refused to apply for bail and entered guilty pleas on the legal accusation.

The Nation has a series of photos of what is a public humiliation of the former confidante to the king. Accounts on social media and The Nation report speak of dozens of photographers and reporters fighting for a piece of the new public face of the now officially disgraced Jumpol.

SuriyanThose reporters know that Jumpol is lucky to reappear – others, like Suriyan Sujaritpalawong have died.

Oddly, a later report in The Nation manages to mangle events, actually writing that “Jumpol surrendered to the Crime Suppression Division to face the charges…”.

The reporters also know that land encroachment charges seem rather “light” if Jumpol is really to be disgraced as others usually face lese majeste charges.

After all, not that long ago, former appointed premier, coup plotter and Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont was seen to have engaged in forest encroachment and nothing legal seemed to happen to him. He was still able to remain on the Privy Council as he apparently retained the support of General Prem Tinsulanonda and the palace. At the time, Surayud was seen as a leading light in the anti-Thaksin-cum-yellow shirt machinations against Thaksin Shinawatra and his parties and supporters.

Another reason for huge interest in the Jumpol case is that he is widely considered to have provided a link between Thaksin and the prince-now-king. The evidence for this is seen in some Wikileaks speculation and because Jumpol was treated as a Thaksin man by the former Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, despite his links to the then prince.

The police state they “have yet to charge him with violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which involves lese majeste,” so it seems that this step is likely.

After his initial appearance, the military used one of their aircraft to take Jumpol to Nakorn Ratchasima for several legal matters associated with land encroachment.

One further step in the palace punishment process is to also charge family members as “accomplices.” These people may have committed real crimes, but their position close to a now “failed” royal relationship also places them at risk and they also get disgraced.

In this quite feudal and narcissistic approach to “relationships” has now seen Jumpol’s wife appear to be charged. Unusually, the police banned reporters from taking photographs of her.

She is described as having “turned herself in to police yesterday to face the same [forest encroachment] charges. She is reported to have “denied some of the charges against her, but allegedly made partial admissions during the police interrogation.” She was released on bail.

It is also reported that:

three other defendants had been released on bail after police investigators concluded that they were unlikely to flee. They were identified as Region 5 Police deputy commissioner Pol Maj-General Pongdej Prommijit, his wife Chanasit Pisitwanit, and her relative Manop Plodkhoksoong.

We suspect there’s a lot more to play out in this case.





Jumpol paraded

2 03 2017

In a recent post on former deputy national police chief Jumpol Manmai, once close to King Vajiralongkorn, and now dismissed from royal service we speculated on his forthcoming court appearance, we stated: We look forward to seeing him and whether, like earlier royal prisoners, has been shaved bald.

We said this because those who fall out with the king tend to have their heads shaved to shame them and then they spend a precarious existence in prison expecting to become a “death in custody” at any moment.

Sure enough, he was dragged out today, bald.jumpol-shaved

The Bangkok Post reports that “[p]olice on Thursday charged Pol Gen Jumpol Manmai, a former deputy police chief and Grand Chamberlain of the Bureau of the Royal Household, with forest encroachment in Nakhon Ratchasima province.”

The police stated that the “the suspect had confessed to the charges.” Of course he did, having been disappeared for a couple of weeks.

Reuters reported on the event that saw scores of reporters trying to provide coverage of the disgraced palace official.

Jumpol Manmai’s dismissal from the palace was one of the most prominent under King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who has asserted his authority on several fronts since taking the throne in December following the death of his father.

Jumpol looked gaunt and tired as he arrived at the Crime Suppression Division in a grey T-shirt instead of his usual uniform and braid. His head had been shaved – a ritual humiliation for those who fall from grace with the palace.

We are not sure that the linking of “ritual” and”humiliation” is correct here. It is something that Vajiralongkorn does as he is a cruel and vindictive type.

Jumpol was fired for misconduct described by the palace as “extremely evil”. He abused his post for personal gain and his political interests threatened national security, it said.

He does not face charges related to those accusations, but to illegal private building on protected forest land in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima. Four people are accused alongside him.

Neither Jumpol nor his lawyer made any comment to media.

Speculation in Thailand and on social media over Jumpol’s fate and whereabouts in recent days had been fuelled by the deaths in custody in 2015 of two men who had been accused of insulting the palace and abusing links to the monarchy….

Jumpol had served as intelligence chief under ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose populist movement’s confrontation with a conservative establishment elite has been behind more than a decade of turmoil in Thailand.

We now wonder if he will die in prison.





More trouble in the palace

21 02 2017

A few days ago, PPT posted on the troubles facing Jumpol Manmai, a former deputy police commissioner and palace grand chamberlain.

Another palace official is in trouble, this time the incident is not so vague and he has clearly displeased the touchy king.

In yet another report that notes that “details of this article has been been omitted to comply with the criminal royal defamation law [lese majeste]…”, it is stated that “Air Vice Marshal Chitpong Thongkum, who served in the King’s bodyguard unit,” has been “fired … for alleged misconduct damaging to the royal household.”

Chitpong was “also stripped of his military ranks and royal decorations” for “offenses include stealing royal property, disclosing [the king’s] personal health records and failing to report to duty as required.” He lost “the eight royal decorations he had [previously] received.”

We guess that means a lese majeste charge will follow.

The royal household announcement at the Royal Gazette continued:

[Chitpong] disobeyed his supervisors and conducted himself in a manner inappropriate for his rank and duty…. Furthermore, he slackened, neglected and skipped his duties. He conducted himself undeservingly of His Majesty’s trusts, doing grave damage to His Majesty’s Household.

The announcement did not “give specific details about Chitpong’s alleged wrongdoing.”

The report states that “Chitpong, as well as serving in King Vajiralongkorn’s bodyguard unit, worked as a physician and started his own health supplement company in November 2016, which he described in a video as a ‘direct sales’ business” called Richkarherbs and he “made references to suggest that [the king] personally approved of his organic health products.” The website for that company now says: “This account has been suspended. Either the domain has been overused, or the reseller ran out of resources.” There’s still a Facebook page as we write this post and a YouTube marketing video for the company’s business.

Another report adds that “Chitpong is the latest in a string of people close to Vajiralongkorn to have been publicly stripped of their titles or seen legal cases brought against them.” There have been dozens over the years, including now former consorts and their families.

Because the king is paranoiac, erratic and a narcissist, and because so many hangers-on seek to profit from the royal relationship, we would expect these events to remain regular for this palace.





Palace problems

17 02 2017

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that the police were investigating “encroachment of forest land in Thap Lan National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima allegedly committed by former deputy national police chief Jumpol Manmai and two other suspects.”

The details are in the report.

But, the report did not say much about Jumpol. As Jumpol is known as a “special” policeman and official, this is odd.jumpol

However, Khaosod, after a delay, has reported some of the truth. It’s report is headlined: “Grand Chamberlain Investigated for Land Encroachment.” The story begins:

A man who at the height of his career served in the innermost circle of the royal palace is now the subject of a criminal investigation.

Jumpol Manmai, a former deputy police commissioner and palace grand chamberlain, is accused of building a luxury mansion in a national park without permission, police announced earlier this week. The news came as a shock to many because he is said to be one of the closest confidantes of … the King.

The report adds that the police are “tight-lipped.” We guess this is because they don’t quite know what to do and how to deal with the case. It isn’t clear to them what’s happening.

In fact, no one is clear. Has Jumpol fallen out with the prince. Vajiralongkorn has a penchant for destroying those who fall out with him. Yet Jumpol only became Grand Chamberlain in September 2016.

Another possibility, and this is startling, is that someone is going after the king. Perhaps a delayed succession crisis?

Back to what is known. Deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul is quoted as saying the investigation is a “confidential matter.” He added: “All of the details are in the case file, I cannot talk about them right now.”

It is also reported that “the authorities” told the media “not to report about Jumpol’s case before the police made official statements.”

It was Thai Rath that “broke ranks and briefly posted a story about Jumpol’s mansion in Thap Lan National Park and a possible police investigation into the alleged intrusion Friday afternoon before deleting it without explanation an hour later.”

Jumpol has quite a history. For one thing, after being sidelined as a Thaksinite following the 2006 military coup, he was back by 2009. This is what Khaosod says:

A policeman by trade, Jumpol is better known as a well-connected political player with links to both former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the influential tycoon-turned-politician and de facto leader of the Redshirt movement, and the traditional establishment.

While he served as deputy police commissioner, Jumpol was considered for the top job at the police force in 2009, but did not make the final cut.

He’s considered by many political analysts to be a rare figure who can serve as a liaison between the Shinawatra clan and the palace circle.

After retiring from the force in 2010, Jumpol came back to the limelight in September when he was appointed deputy director of the Royal Household Bureau, a title also known as the Grand Chamberlain.

The job appeared to be tailor-made for him; the title of deputy director in the royal household did not exist prior to Jumpol’s appointment.

There’s more than this. Jumpol was rumored to be the then prince’s “candidate” for police chief back in 2009, which saw a major standoff with then premier Abhisit Vejjajiva. One result of this crisis was the resignation of secretary-general to PM Abhisit, Nipon Promphan, related by marriage to Suthep Thaugsuban.

Wikileaks has several cables that tell various elements of the police chief saga and the rumors of links between Jumpol and Thaksin: 21 Sept 2009, 24 Sept 2009, 28 Sept 2009, 6 Oct 2009.





Still getting the monarchy wrong

17 02 2017

Ralph Jennings, a Contributor at Forbes says he “cover[s] under-reported stories from Taiwan and Asia” but seems to specialize on China and Taiwan. Thus, venturing into things royal and Thailand is thus a stretch and a test of knowledge.

He’s right to observe that the monarchy in Thailand has “massive influence.”

But the picture he paints of the last king is pure palace propaganda when he states:

He had stopped coups, spearheaded rural infrastructure projects and met commoners in rough or squalid conditions. His actions helped strengthen people’s confidence in their country with an otherwise wobbly government.

Let’s correct a bit. He also initiated coups, as in 1957, and he supported coups, as in 2006, when it suited him. And that’s just two examples. He also supported right-wing extremists and acted as a prompt to massive blood-letting, as in 1976. The palace hand was always meddling in politics. The “infrastructure projects” are presumably the royal projects, many of them grand failures and, since the General Prem Tinsulanonda era, at great taxpayer expense.

And, “wobbly government” hardly seems to fit much of the reign, when the monarchy collaborated with ruthless military regimes, just as it does now.

The author is correct to observe that King Vajiralongkorn “is not expected to advocate changes in Thailand that reflect mass concerns or even go around meeting people.”

Recall that the dead king also essentially gave up “going to the people” for most of the last two decades of his reign. For one thing, he was too ill. For another, the “going to meet the people” was a political strategy for winning hearts and minds in his campaign to remake the monarchy. By the 1990s, this was largely achieved.

That King Vajiralongkorn is claimed to have “signaled little interest so far in shifting Thailand from quasi-military rule toward more democracy after a junta took power in 2014” seems an odd observation. And, in this quite natural political position for a monarchy such as Thailand’s, the new king follows the dead one.

That the new king wants more power for the throne is clear to all. That’s why the military’s “constitution” has been changed. But to say that the new version – we still don’t know the exact nature of the changes – allows the king “more freedom to travel overseas, where he has spent much of his life, and can appoint a regent to rule when he’s not around” is a misunderstanding of what The Dictator has let be known. The point of the changes was to allow him to not have a regent during his jaunts.

And, Mr Jennings must be the only one who thinks “[e]lections are due this year.”

He is right, however, to add that “[o]bservers believe that with King Vajiralongkorn, Thailand will continue to retain its strict lese-majeste laws, which ban any criticism of the monarchy.” That is a requirement of continued domination by a royalist elite.